Tasmania will be the first state to be affected by a Federal Government push to outsource visa application services, with more than 100 jobs on the chopping block, a union says.
Greens senator Nick McKim has also attacked the move, labelling it an unacceptable “test case”, and calling on the Government to reverse its decision.
The Department of Home Affairs is putting short-term visa services out to tender to the private sector from July, which is currently the primary work of staff in Hobart.
Under the plan, short-term and simple applications will be decided through an automated system, rather than by public servants.
It is part of a broader goal to redesign Australia’s visa system using the private sector.
Senator McKim said the Greens were against the outsourcing of visa services.
“This is privatising access to Australia, and we know from similar moves in the United Kingdom that it leads to increased costs and a decrease in transparency and accountability,” Senator McKim said.
“It will be computers and algorithms that decide the outcome of visas, rather than humans, and this is a very human area.
“By making short-term visas the first tranche for privatisation, the Liberals have decided to make Tasmania a test case.”
Tasmanians ‘first on the chopping block’: union
The Community and Public Sector Union’s regional secretary Madeline Northam said it was an anxious wait for the state’s Department of Home Affairs staff.
“What we are hearing is that there’ll be up to 100 job cuts, possibly even more, in Tasmania alone, and 3000 around the country,” Ms Northam said.
“Tasmanians are first on the chopping block.
“Tasmanian staff primarily do short-term visas, and that’s what the Government is looking at selling off first.”
Ms Northam said the Federal Government was only keeping security assessment and some manual decision making in the department’s hands.
She said character assessment, identity, and data collection would all be outsourced.
“If the rest of the work is done by a private company, it will be tick and flick, and they won’t need all the staff here,” she said.
“We are really hoping the Government sees the light on this and makes a decision to reverse the cuts.”
Department denies visa ‘privatisation’
The department deals with 8 million applications every year, and that’s expected to rise to 13 million by 2023.
The move has been described by Immigration Minister Peter Dutton as an effort to modernise the system and make it more efficient.
The department did not respond to a number of questions about job losses, but said in a statement visa services were not being privatised.
“[The department] will continue to have responsibility for all visa decision-making, including whether to grant or refuse a visa to a non-citizen, and responsibility for decisions relating to national security,” a spokesperson said.
“Through an increase in automation and digitisation of current manual processes, staff will be able to focus on more complex and high-risk matters, using their expertise and judgement on applications that most warrant attention.”